By Tom Hall and Lenny Shulman
Historically, the goal of every Thoroughbred breeder, whether private or commercial, has been to bring forth a better horse. How best to do this, however, has taken divergent paths, depending on the philosophies of the individual managing the animals’ reproductive destinies. As times have changed, the industry has evolved to the point that logistics and limited opportunity for stallions no longer play roles in the science of horse husbandry. Moving horses from one state to another, even one country to another, is not a problem. And choices of stallions within certain sire lines come, like ice cream, in a variety, depending on the “flavors of the day.”
However tempting it may be to follow the new hot sire, if a breeder believes in a certain mating or it has been proven to work on one occasion, why shouldn’t it be tried again?
Certainly, history has given evidence that repeated crossings of a mare to a stallion have clicked all the genetic tumblers to unlock a vault that has brought forth horses whose influence has been significant across the following centuries.
Leamington and Maggie B. B.
At one time, Aristides Welch, owner of Erdenheim Stud, was the only Thoroughbred breeder in Pennsylvania in the 19th century. As mainly a commercial breeder, Welch was constantly seeking stock that would appreciate the value of his foal crops. In 1870 he purchased a chestnut daughter of Australian that had been bred in Kentucky by the family of statesman Henry Clay. A granddaughter of the noted broodmare Magnolia, the filly named Maggie B. B. acquitted herself well on the racetracks of the East and South, winning stakes at Nashville and Saratoga.
Welch also added a new sire to his stud barn: the 19-year-old Leamington, an English stakes winner who had already stood at stud in Kentucky and in New Jersey and was producing offspring noted for their speed.
Leamington’s first book at Erdenheim included Maggie B. B. Leamington would be her sole mate until his death in 1878. From those unions she produced seven foals. The best of the four stakes winners was Iroquois, who racing for Pierre Lorillard, was the first American bred to win the Epsom Derby. Another of the four stakes winners produced from this union was Harold, who racing for George Lorillard, was the best 2-year-old of his day and won the Preakness Stakes at 3. A Leamington—Maggie B. B. daughter, Jaconet, produced Belmont Stakes winner Sir Dixon, who was the leading U.S. sire in 1901. The influence of Jaconet has survived into the 21st century and can be found in the tail-female line of Harlan’s Holiday and Ride the Rails, the sire of influential stallion Candy Ride. (Inbred 4x3 to Jaconet’s sixth-generation granddaughter Alablue, Ride the Rails descends both tail-male and tail-female from Jaconet).
Upon the death of Leamington, Maggie B. B. was bred to other Welch stallions but never replicated the success she had with Leamington. From her subsequent nine foals, she had one more stakes winner, the classic-winning Panique (by Alarm). She also foaled his full sister Red and Blue, whose female descendants include Broodmare of the Year Fall Aspen. To honor Leamington and his “wife,” the two lie buried side by side near the banks of Wissahickon Creek that flows through Erdenheim.
Fair Play and Mahubah
Among the stallions standing at August Belmont Jr.’s Nursery Stud near Lexington in 1915 was the fiery Fair Play, a high-headed son of Belmont’s stallion Hastings. Belmont also had in his stable a young filly by his recent import Rock Sand. Named Mahubah, she was a victim of the Belmont policy of having promising fillies break their maidens and then retiring to the broodmare paddocks.
Thus it was with Mahubah. The cross of Fair Play with Rock Sand mares had already showed some promise, having produced several good stakes winners. The best was yet to come forth; Mahubah would be the vessel. In a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Mahubah’s only mate was Fair Play. From five foals, she would have three stakes winners: Man o’ War (enough said there), My Play, and Masda.
The Fair Play/Rock Sand cross would prove to fulfill its promise and then some. From 49 Fair Play stakes winners, 17 (34.7%) were from that cross.
Masda has her own story to tell. Of her three stakes winners, the filly Incandescent (by Chicle) found her way into the breed-to-race program of Robert Kleberg’s King Ranch, who also believed that a well-chosen mating should be repeated. Incandescent’s first foal, Igual, would be mated to Kleberg’s Kentucky Derby-winning stallion Bold Venture 10 times. The first foal was Assault, who won the 1946 Triple Crown. Two more stakes winners followed as well as the unraced mare Equal Venture, who has been the main conduit of the Mahubah family into the 21st century. Equal Venture is the fifth dam of 2011 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Stay Thirsty (by Bernardini ).
In death, Fair Play and Mahubah lie together, buried side by side at the base of a bronze statue of Fair Play.
Sir Gallahad III and Marguerite
Claiborne Farm’s Seth Hancock remembers his father, A.B. Hancock Jr., saying, “If you’re trying to strike oil, you drill in the same field where it’s been struck before.” As head of the farm where William Woodward Sr. boarded his horses, the elder Hancock had first-hand knowledge of the truth of this precept.
When Hancock imported Sir Gallahad III to Claiborne in 1926, he did so with the help of Woodward, along with R.A. Fairbairn and Marshall Field. Among the Woodward mares was Marguerite, who had already produced a fine yearling by Wrack, Petee-Wrack, who would later fulfill his promise by winning among other races the Travers Stakes. Marguerite would be among the Woodward mares sent to Sir Gallahad III in his first season. The following spring she produced a handsome, distinctively blazed-face colt with a smart, inquisitive nature and loads of athletic ability. Named Gallant Fox, the pride of Belair won the 1930 Triple Crown and championship honors to boot. Marguerite never went to the court of another stallion. Six successive matings produced two more stakes winners including the high-class Fighting Fox and Foxbrough, who won important stakes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Marguerite’s daughter Marguery has propelled the family to prominence in contemporary pedigrees as the tail-female ancestress of such horses as group I winners Generous (by Caerleon) and Imagine (by Sadler’s Wells) as well as grade I winner Albertus Maximus (by Albert the Great).
As with Leamington and Maggie B. B., Fair Play and Mahubah, the pair lie adjacent to one another, their graves marked by granite.
Graustark and Golden Trail
John Galbreath, owner of Darby Dan Farm near Lexington, was a breed-to-race sportsman who gave careful consideration to his bloodstock. Acquiring the unbeaten Ribot for his stallion roster and then seeking the right mares for his two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner resulted in the brilliant stakes-winning Graustark, whose own unbeaten promise as a racehorse was cut short by injury in his prep for the Kentucky Derby when he finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Retired to stud at Darby Dan, Graustark had as one of his most frequent companions the Hasty Road mare Golden Trail. From their 11 offspring came five black-type horses, two of which were stakes winners, none of great note. Although the greatness might not have been seized in the instant, the future was being wrought.
Commenting on the pairing, John Phillips, grandson of Galbreath and now manning the helm of Darby Dan, said, “Those horses they produced, none of them were great. Autumn Glory, Outward Sunshine, Kelley’s Day, Sylvan Place—they were all useful stakes horses, but none of them were brilliant. But in turn, the next generation was. They are longer-term goals.”
Indeed they are, and those longer-term goals include the venerable Dynaformer, who has sired 125 stakes winners, and the current pride of Darby Dan, grade I winner Winter Memories, who is destined to take her place in extending the Graustark—Golden Trail legacy.
Under Phillips, Darby Dan bridges the worlds of commercial and private breeders. In guiding this dual purpose, Phillips also sees the other side of choosing stallions. “Most definitely people are breeding back to the same stallion less, principally because most of the breeding now is done for the commercial market. However, even the commercial market sometimes suggests mating back in the same family when things have gone tremendously well. But most people who breed for the commercial market are more dynamic in their approach to breeding and aren’t concerned with supporting certain farm stallions.”
Danehill and Hasili
Strictly a private breeder, the transatlantic powerhouse Juddmonte Farms has assembled one of the best broodmare bands in the world and has the choice of its own roster of accomplished stallions or any other stallions worldwide. One of its most prized accomplishments in the breeding shed has been the cross of the blue hen mare Hasili with the stallion Danehill.
Up until Danehill’s untimely death at 17 in 2003, Hasili had visited only one other stallion (Green Desert for grade I winner Heat Haze), but that mating had been planned before the first two from Danehill—Hasilis had hit the track. The accomplishments of group II-winning Dansili and European and U.S. champion Banks Hill certainly persuaded Juddmonte to return Hasili to him. Following Heat Haze came Intercontinental, Cacique, and Champs Elysees, all performers at the highest level. Hasili to date has produced seven grade/group winners, five by Danehill.
Ironically, Danehill himself is a Juddmonte-bred offspring of a mare that had multiple successful matings to the same stallion. A daughter of His Majesty out of the Buckpasser mare Spring Adieu, Razyana was a $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale purchase in 1982. After a less than illustrious racing career of three starts in England, she was returned to the U.S. and bred to Danzig. The result was the incomparable Danehill, a sire of sires who has sired more stakes winners (354) than any other sire in history. Razyana returned to Danzig eight more times, resulting in four stakes winners and two additional stakes-placed performers.
Garrett O’Rourke, who manages Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte North American division, offered some insight into Juddmonte’s use of repeat matings.
“If something is working and it makes a lot of sense and the individuals are very good…and one has been a standout for every reason—conformation, racetrack performance (you’d go back to the same stallion). That would have been the case with Razyana.”
A.P. Indy and Get Lucky
As with the cross of Rock Sand mares on Fair Play, the cross of Mr. Prospector mares on A.P. Indy has proved most valuable. To date, from 122 foals have come 21 black-type winners (17.2%) based on this cross. The Phipps family’s grade III stakes winner Get Lucky was bred to A.P. Indy on five occasions while the mare was still in their paddocks. The result of the first mating was the grade III winner Accelerator. Although it took four more matings to come up with another stakes winner, the grade II-winning filly Daydreaming, Get Lucky produced in the interim three other fillies. Two of those became grade I producers: She’s a Winner, dam of Bluegrass Cat , and Supercharger, dam of classic-winning Super Saver .
After the mare found a new home in the hands of a commercial breeder, she was once more returned to A.P. Indy, resulting in grade I winner Girolamo , who was sold privately.
Seth Hancock, whose Claiborne Farm deals with private and commercial breeders, has been involved in the mating plans for both sides.
“If you breed a mare and the first foal is a really good horse, you may not go back to the mating for a couple of years until you realize you got a really good one,” he said. “Then you’d go back. The commercial marketplace plays into it. If you got one you sold for a lot of money and it got into the right hands and you feel it’s got every chance of success, you say, ‘let’s try it again.’ ”